Thanks to a new method developed by the team of Prof. Irit Sagi of the Structural Biology Department, reality TV has reached enzyme molecules. They can now be viewed “live” in video clips. The clips’ resolution is so high that it is possible to see the movements of individual atoms within the molecule. Until now, scientists who studied the ultra-small enzymes had to rely on still photos. The pioneering method was published in Nature Structural Biology, where it was hailed as the first of its kind.
Apart from “putting enzymes on film,” the Weizmann Institute team was able to capture the step-by-step process an enzyme goes through as it performs its work. The entire process takes place in a fraction of a second. This new capability presents a huge step forward in the area of drug design, since it enables scientists to identify the precise parts of a molecule that are active in binding to a drug. Sagi’s team is doing just that for one enzyme family (called MMP), known to play a role in cancer metastasis. Using the knowledge gained by the new technique, the team has designed a molecule that blocks MMPs at a crucial phase.
Prof. Sagi’s research is supported by the Avron-Wilstatter Minerva Center; the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly; the Ceil and Joseph Mazer Center for Structural Biology; the Cymerman-Jakubskind Prize; the Laub Fund for Oncogene Research; Prof. Clotilde Pontecorvo, Italy; and Verband der Chemischen Industrie.